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Economic Agents as Imperfect Problem Solvers

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  • Cosmin L. Ilut
  • Rosen Valchev

Abstract

We develop a tractable model of limited cognitive perception of the optimal policy function, with agents using costly reasoning effort to update beliefs about this optimal mapping of economic states into actions. A key result is that agents reason less (more) when observing usual (unusual) states, producing state- and history-dependent behavior. Our application is a standard incomplete markets model with ex-ante identical agents that hold no a-priori behavioral biases. The resulting ergodic distribution of actions and beliefs is characterized by “learning traps”, where locally stable dynamics of wealth generate “familiar” regions of the state space within which behavior appears to follow past-experience-based heuristics. We show qualitatively and quantitatively how these traps have empirically desirable properties: the marginal propensity to consume is higher, hand-to-mouth status is more frequent and persistent, and there is more wealth inequality than in the standard model.

Suggested Citation

  • Cosmin L. Ilut & Rosen Valchev, 2020. "Economic Agents as Imperfect Problem Solvers," NBER Working Papers 27820, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27820
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    2. Francesco D’Acunto & Daniel Hoang & Michael Weber, 2022. "Managing Households’ Expectations with Unconventional Policies," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 35(4), pages 1597-1642.
    3. Bartosz Maćkowiak & Filip Matějka & Mirko Wiederholt, 2023. "Rational Inattention: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 61(1), pages 226-273, March.
    4. Francesco D’Acunto & Daniel Hoang & Maritta Paloviita & Michael Weber, 2023. "IQ, Expectations, and Choice," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 90(5), pages 2292-2325.
    5. Andrade, Philippe & Gautier, Erwan & Mengus, Eric, 2023. "What matters in households’ inflation expectations?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 50-68.
    6. Albuquerque, Bruno & Green, Georgina, 2023. "Financial concerns and the marginal propensity to consume in COVID times: Evidence from UK survey data," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    7. Yang Hao, 2023. "Financial Market with Learning from Price under Knightian Uncertainty," Working Papers hal-03686748, HAL.
    8. Hassan Afrouzi, 2020. "Strategic Inattention, Inflation Dynamics, and the Non-Neutrality of Money," CESifo Working Paper Series 8218, CESifo.
    9. repec:zbw:bofrdp:2021_012 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Nimark, Kristoffer P. & Sundaresan, Savitar, 2019. "Inattention and belief polarization," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 203-228.
    11. Francesco D'Acunto & Daniel Hoang & Maritta Paloviita & Michael Weber, 2019. "Human Frictions to the Transmission of Economic Policy," 2019 Meeting Papers 339, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    12. Ruediger Bachmann & Kai Carstensen & Stefan Lautenbacher & Martin Schneider, 2021. "Uncertainty and Change: Survey Evidence of Firms's Subjective Beliefs," CESifo Working Paper Series 9394, CESifo.
    13. Artem Kuriksha, 2021. "An Economy of Neural Networks: Learning from Heterogeneous Experiences," Papers 2110.11582, arXiv.org.
    14. Chen Lian, 2021. "Mistakes in Future Consumption, High MPCs Now," NBER Working Papers 29517, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. George-Marios Angeletos & Karthik Sastry, 2019. "Inattentive Economies," NBER Working Papers 26413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Francesco D'Acunto & Daniel Hoang & Maritta Paloviita & Michael Weber, 2019. "Human Frictions to the Transmission of Economic Policy," 2019 Meeting Papers 339, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C11 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Bayesian Analysis: General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E71 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on the Macro Economy

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